Braving the birds
13 January 2012 | Isla Isabel
Our next stop, Isla Isabel, an uninhabited island about 18 miles offshore, was fairly uneventful until we were within about a mile of the out skirting islands. We sailed for some of the way and then wound up motoring in the night as the wind died down. The most unsettling part of night sailing for me and most likely most cruisers, is not being able to see what lies ahead, especially here in Mexico where they do a lot of drift net and long line fishing. Sometimes the drift nets can be more than a mile long and the markers are whatever flag they want (if they even use them). We'd been hearing stories on the radio about people and whales getting caught up in the nets in the area we were heading. It is hard enough to see the flags for the drift nets during the day but at night you just have to guess which blips on the radar might be working together and therefore which direction to go. Using the strategy of they'll see us, we'll see them, and both of us will head in a direction that will avoid trouble is not a sound strategy. On my early morning watch I saw a light ahead that seemed to come out of the far horizon and hadn't seen it on my last look around 10 minutes earlier, so after getting out the binoculars and the light appearing fairly low on the horizon I decided it was far away. When I looked out that way again, just 5 minutes later, it was less than 100 feet away from me and a panga with the driver not either noticing I was there or just not caring assuming I would alter course I'm not sure, but lesson learned. If I see a light suddenly appear again, I'll definitely keep a better eye on it!
As we got closer to the island Kevin spotted whales. They were in the distance, spouting water and diving. I had the camera out and was on the bow, when I saw a small whale coming right towards us. I shouted to Kevin to put the engine in neutral as I watched the whale go back down and what appeared to be under the boat surfacing on the other side. Then in the not too far distance I saw two large, as in HUGE, whales and got a bit nervous hoping they weren't going to think we were a threat since their baby was on the other side and seemed to me like he wanted to play with us like a plastic bathtub toy boat. He dived back under the boat and then rejoined the other HUGE whales. At one point they were all so close that I kept talking to them and telling them we weren't going to hurt them so to please be nice to us and go a little further away. I'm sure they understood as there were no thumps on the boat. For the next two days while we were anchored there we saw whales a number of times, but unfortunately I didn't get any great camera shots. For whatever reason, the sight of whales for me doesn't get old; they are just so incredible to watch.
Once anchored, we took naps and then set off in the dinghy to go explore the island. Isla Isabel is an official Bird Sanctuary and given my slight (an understatement) aversion to birds, you may wonder why I would even want to go ashore. Well I was wondering the same thing as we trekked through trees holding hundreds of frigate's nesting in them, many times at my eye level. And even though one part of me didn't want to be there and said to flee, the other part of me was amazed seeing the red throats of the male frigates as they puffed them up to try to attract mates. I took lots of deep breaths, and made it to what looks like an abandoned building but is actually used by the warden and researches visiting the island. There weren't any birds in the building but there were iguana's either sunning themselves or just hanging out, I'm not sure which. We took a trail leading from the building to a cove hoping to find some of the blue footed boobies we'd been reading about and for some reason I really wanted to see. That meant going through some more trees with frigate birds nesting at my eye level and then stepping way to close for my comfort by the nesting boobie's. None of which were blue footed. By this point my heart was racing and I'd had enough so we went back to the dinghy, and Kevin went off on his own to search for the blue footed birds to take a picture for me. He found some up on a ridge but when he went to take their pictures, the batteries had run out. Darn!
The following day we took the dinghy around the island and I talked myself into hiking to where the blue footed boobies were. Another cruiser suggested I take something with me that I could hold up above my head to make me feel like I could ward something off if I felt it necessary soI took our boat hook. Off we went, Kevin in front, me following closely behind with my aluminum weapon. I'm sure the local fisherman we passed wondered about the loco gringo but I felt better. The trail leads up through more nesting frigates and some of the boobies. At the top of the ridge there were hundreds of nesting blue footed boobies, some of which sat calmly as we came close by and others who made some type of a whistling noise letting us know we were too close. I may have been making my own whistling noise at that point as Kevin asked me why being as obviously nervous as I was had even wanted to make the climb to which all I could say is that here we are, in a place we will most likely never be again, and have an opportunity to see some very unique species of birds, and I just didn't want to let my fears get the better of me. So there I was on the top of a ridge surrounded by birds, breathing as deeply as I could, but sweating more than the warmth and hike warranted. The view was gorgeous, the blue footed boobies something I'd never seen before and almost comical in the way they lift their feet, and Kevin wants to take pictures of me with my boat hook looking like a dork. (Karissa and Kelsey tell me that dork is a term of endearment, so I'm hoping Kevin sees me as dear at this point and not as someone giving him dirty looks.) That adventure over, we make it back to the boat and decide to scrub the waterline.
The water although not very clear, was warm enough to jump in and work on the boat. I started on one side; Kevin checked the zincs and then moved along to the other side. I kept feeling as if something was touching me, like a fly landing on me underwater but I didn't see anything. It didn't really hurt but was a bit uncomfortable. I went around the boat to ask Kevin if he was noticing the same thing when I discovered Bob, from Navigo, was there telling Kevin about being stung by a jellyfish. I swam over to the other side of the boat and job unfinished, got out! I think at that point I'd had all I could take of critters, water or air. Bob was really there just to let us know that there would be appetizers on their boat at 4:00.
Cruisers seem to love getting together and it is fun to find connections. Everyone in the anchorage was invited for appetizers, so including Bob and Camilla, there were 13 people in the cockpit chatting and for those of us new to the group getting to know each other, or catching up for those who had already connected. At times it was so loud with cross talk it felt like we were in a bar! The youngest couple of the group was Leah and John on Brio. We learned that from the ages of 11-15 Leah and her parents circumnavigated on a Fraser, the same boat as KIST. Many of the Frasers are completely different as they were sold as either factory finished or as just the hull and deck and owner completed. Leah came over the next morning to see KIST, pointing out the similarities and differences and show us some pictures of theirs.
Earlier in the day on our way back from the island we stopped to chat with Christian, the cruiser who suggested I take a pole with me on our walk. Christian is also from Bellingham and although he sailed with someone from Bellingham to Mexico, he is on his own now. He does free diving and spear fishing and the previous day had asked us if we wanted any fish if he went out. When we came up to his boat he held up a barracuda and asked if we wanted some. Uhmmm, I'm not sure what to do with a barracuda but took it anyway. A white fleshed fish, it was fairly mild tasting and not too bad but certainly not as good as salmon. Neither was the tuna that Bob gave us that he had caught earlier in the day. Maybe being from the Pacific Northwest and having salmon I'm just spoiled, but so far I haven't really found another fish I like nearly as well. Too bad, as it could help spread our budget further!